Editor's Note: We received this letter, from the 'front lines' of the battle with depression, from a reader who has a message for others: don't give up.
I struggle with depression and anxiety.
When others ask me about my mental illness, I try to explain it as seeing the same light as everyone else, only darker. I say how everything that made me happy earlier stopped having any value. I tell them that I felt like the dark was consuming me and taking all the light with it. Sometimes I just say I felt sadness because that's almost the right word, though it's not exactly how I feel. What I felt is an emptiness that is extremely heavy. I felt like I didn’t care about anything anymore. And that’s the feeling of being depressed. What about anxiety? In my opinion anxiety feels like caring too much about everything and seeing even small obstacles as if they are impossible. This combination makes it hard to explain having both depression and anxiety – it's a mixture of a lot of different feelings.
I took me a long time to tell my parents how I was feeling. When I did, they helped me find a psychiatrist, who prescribed medication. I have been taking medication for almost two months now and I feel relief as I get a little better every day.
When I was finally diagnosed I started trying to tell friends about the way I was feeling. Over time I started talking more openly about my depression and anxiety and was surprised to learn that there were other people feeling the same way. Some of them told me their stories and I was and still am here for them. I've found that helping others made me feel better. Plus, it made me feel that I had someone I could relate to. I have support from my friends and family and though I really appreciate it, I always thought I was the only one struggling with my symptoms. When I reached out to others and learned they had similar experiences, I started accepting my illness much more.
"I was surprised to learn that there were other people feeling the same way."
Back when I hid my feelings, I had obstacles with my social life. When I started talking and learning more about myself and my illness, I felt better. The change came mostly because I could tell my friends honestly that I didn't feel like going out on a particular day.
Along the way I definitely learned to listen to myself and know my limits. I learned that if I feel like staying at home I can do it and accept the fact that I have had a bad day. I stopped seeing myself as a failure. I am not failing. I am healing. It’s a slow process and I have to be patient. I am getting better. I am healing and I believe that I can recover.
Lately, I have started noticing positive aspects of my life. Every day I try to find something that I am thankful for. I try to celebrate every little success. I feel very thankful on the days when I wake up with enough energy for the day. When I don’t, I'm thankful for my ability to motivate myself to do it. When I am not able to get up at all, then I feel thankful that I find enough strength to just hold on one more day.
I used to think that I couldn't change anything about my mental illness. I used to think that I couldn't win with it. Then I thought about suicide. Now, I am really glad that I didn’t give up after all. I'm happy that I managed to stay alive for another day, because now, after many evenings spent dreaming about ending my life, I can't wait for tomorrow.
Why am I writing all of this? I'm doing it because I want to tell you, whoever you are: depression feels like constantly falling down. It’s a battle that seems impossible to win. But it is possible. It's possible to get better, to recover. You have a lot more strength than you think. I know it all seems pointless, but there are reasons to stay alive. I love poetry so on some really bad days I tell myself I'm just staying here to read another poem. There is always at least one little thing you should hold on for. It doesn't matter if it's someone that you promised to keep on living for or if it's a new coffee at Starbucks. Just hold on one more day.
Feeling depressed or anxious? Considering suicide? Though it may be hard to do, try to reach out to someone and tell them how you're feeling. That can be a suicide help-line, a friend, a therapist, or a teacher. You can even text with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Find them at 1800-273-8255 or on their website. There you can get help in an emergency, find providers for long term care, and volunteer to help others.